Ten Women Who Carry India’s Medal Hopes in Tokyo Olympics

Mumbai, July 23 (IANS) The medal rounds of the Tokyo Olympics begin on Saturday — and India enters the race with a grand total of 28 medals bagged across all the editions of the Olympics it has participated in since 1920. That was the year India sent its first team to the Games.

The tally pales in comparison to the USA’s 2,542, but the 127-strong Indian contingent goes into the 2020 Olympics with very high hopes of returning home with a double-digit medals haul. Of the 127, some athletes are the favourites to win medals. Here’s our list of the 10 women who have the best shot at adding to the slim kitty of a medal-starved nation.

1. P.V. Sindhu (Badminton): Undoubtedly one of the most recognisable names on this list, the Hyderabad-born shuttler may just come home with the badminton gold. Sindhu came within inches of the gold when she won the silver in the 2016 Olympics. In the run-up to Tokyo, she has been in good form, even making it to the All-England Open semi-finals. The only downside to the story is that the competition is tougher in Tokyo than in Rio.

2. M.C. Mary Kom (Boxing): A living legend of her sport, the 38-year-old light flyweight boxer and Rajya Sabha MP comes to the Games with an immense depth of experience and a bucketful of records. Mary Kom won the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics, and then a gold each at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. She begins her Tokyo campaign with a record haul of six gold medals in as many editions of the World Amateur Boxing Championships, making her a favourite as she prepares for what may perhaps be her last bid for a gold.

3. Vinesh Phogat (Wrestling): Cousin of the famous Phogat sisters, Vinesh has been carving out an impressive legacy of her own, having won her first World Championship medal in the women’s 53kg category after pinning down Maria Prevolaraki (Greece) in the bronze medal match. At the last Asian Championships, she also became India’s first female wrestler to win a gold medal. An injury snuffed out her dream of getting an Olympic medal in 2016. She now hopes to make up for that loss and return from Tokyo with some prized metal.

4. Saikhom Mirabhai Chanu (Weightlifting): The only Indian weightlifter to have qualified for the Olympics, she does have the power to stand up to the pressure, considering her recent exploits at the Asian Weighlifting Championships in Tashkent, where she created a world record in the 49kg category by lifting 119kg in clean and jerk. That wasn’t the only record she has created, for she also holds the national record for the combined effort of 205kg. The 26-year-old from Manipur seems more than ready for the big win.

5. Elavenil Valarivan (Shooting): The 21-year-old will represent India in the 10m Air Rifle women’s and mixed team events. She is the only Indian shooter who did not need to win a quota to qualify, which should hardly come as a surprise considering her achievements. These include winning the first place at the 2019 ISSF World Cup’s 10m Air Rifle event and also clinching the gold at the Asian Air Gun Championships in Taoyuan, Taipei.

6. Deepika Kumari (Archery): Her stellar performance at the Archery World Cup, where she bagged the gold thrice, has led to the archer from Jharkhand taking back the No. 1 spot in the global rankings. This incredible performance has naturally raised people’s expectations from her. All eyes are on her to hit bull’s eye with India first archery medal in the Olympics.

7. Manu Bhaker (Shooting): The calibre of her opponents isn’t the only worry that this 19-year-old has. She also has to cope with the high pressure of expectations. Fortunately for her, she has shown maturity way beyond her years, having picked up two gold medals at the 2018 ISSF World Cup, becoming the youngest Indian to do so. The young prodigy is a nine-time gold medallist at the ISSF World Cup and she will be aiming to replicate Abhinav Bindra’s Beijing heroics in Tokyo.

8. C.A. Bhavani Devi (Fencing): The 27-year-old has made history by becoming the first Indian fencer to qualify for the Olympics after securing her place in March. Having been introduced to fencing when she was 9, Bhavani Devi has not looked back. She has won medals at both the Commonwealth and Asian championships. She qualified through the Adjusted Official Ranking (AOR) method, but she now hopes to cause even bigger waves by winning a medal in a sport that is hardly celebrated in India.

9. Manika Batra (Table Tennis): Her memories of the Olympics are probably the ones she’d sooner forget, considering that she crashed out from the first round in Rio. This failure may have been enough to dissuade a lesser talent, but Batra came back from behind two years later, winning two gold medals in the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Five years on, the rafter from Delhi will hope to right the wrongs of her past by making it to the podium this time around.

10. Pranati Nayak (Gymnastics): Though she qualified after the Asian Olympic Qualifying Championships got cancelled because of the Covid pandemic, Pranati’s presence at the Tokyo Olympics has raised hopes of an encore of Dipa Karmakar’s performance in Rio in2016. Dipa soared on her flawless execution of the dangerous Produnova vault to finish fourth. Pranati is a different kind of gymnast, so she is expected to try out her own routines to impress the judges.

Also read: PM Modi speaks to ace sprinter Dutee Chand ahead of Tokyo Olympics
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